POST Online Media Lite Edition


Cross-department collaboration

Ted Blackwater |
Every company has different departments and every department is equally important on the way to success. So, why then those department tend to be in conflict instead of collaborating happily together?

You saw this situation numerous times: financial department is complaining that marketing is spending too much, IT department can't buy more computers because financial won't sign that, marketing is furious because production still, stiiiiill! doesn't have the new product and the deadline for ads is near... Every group of employees in your company has its own goal, so what can you, the CEO, do to make them work together?

First, do not have separate meetings. For example, if you are discussing production issues, call people from all departments to the same meeting. Better yet, let there be several employees from the same department, not just their team leader. That has two advantages over separate meetings: first, people will really feel like a part of the same organization, and second, somebody from a department totally unrelated to production may spot long-term issues and solve problems before they even appear.

Second: Ask everybody for their opinion. During the meeting, every department should say a word or two, even if that's simple "It's OK." That will force all of them to think about the project at hand and how it could reflect on their department in the near of far future. When that becomes habit in your organization, you'll be surprised how willing everybody will be to contribute.

Third: Allow conflict. One of the mistake a CEO may make is to slow things down and say "OK, we must take a look at it" but that's plain wrong. Take a look at it now because that's why you have everybody-in meeting in the first place. Allow different opinions, argument, even higher voice, as long as they are focused on the problem. Slow river is nice to watch but wild one carries stones. So, remember that old saying: If everybody agrees - somebody's lying. Only open discussion will bring results.

That would be about meetings, but what about the rest of the working day/week/month? Every department should share information with other departments on a regular basis, say weekly. When the girl from the marketing department come to the guy in production with "Hey, your product is so great, we made such a good ad!" that will go more good for production than any employee of the month award.

If you want to make things even more interesting, make it obligatory for every person to work some time in a totally unrelated department. Put an engineer to see how hard is to sell product, let the chief of finance try to assemble that product on the product line, and send your middle manager to kitchen to see how hard is to live when 200 people come to break at the same time, with 200 ideas for lunch. Trust us: after that nobody will say "Oh, they over there are just sitting."

Cross-department collaboration is a must if you want your company to run smoothly and with those few simple advice you can make it. Let your company be a place where all employees are one, regardless of the department name, and not a few groups of totally unrelated people.

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